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OVERPRICED COVID-19 TEST KITS

Ombudsman affirms order to file graft raps vs. Lao, ex-DBM, Pharmally execs


The Office of the Ombudsman affirmed its 2023 decision ordering the filing of multiple graft charges against former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao, Pharmally officials, and others over the alleged anomalous procurement of P4 billion worth of RT-PCR COVID-19 test kits. 

In an order dated  May 3 but was released on Thursday, May 9, Ombudsman Samuel Martires junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Lao.

The anti-graft body also ordered the filing of three counts of graft charges against ex- DBM procurement director Warren Liong, DBM procurement management officer Paul Jasper de Guzman, Pharmally officials Twinkle Dargani, Linconn Ong, Justine Garado, Huang Tzu Yen and, Chinese businessman Lin Wei Xiong, who served as Pharmally’s financial manager.

The Ombudsman’s 2023 order did not include Lin Wei Xiong as one of the respondents.

“Significantly, Pharmally's funds came from its irregular transactions with PS-DBM. Its financial statements indicate that prior to the 2020 dealings with the PS-DBM, the company had no business activity from September to December 2019. For the year ended 31 December 2019, Pharmally even incurred a net loss of P25,550.00. But, in 2020 where PS-DBM irregularly awarded procurement contracts to Pharmally, the corporation earned a net taxable income of P318,337,099.00 with a declared net sales/revenues/receipts/fees of P74.8 billion,” the Ombudsman said.

“The payment details for the test kits suggest that the checks in the name of the corporation were issued when Lin was the Financial Manager enjoying extraordinary power over the corporate funds in Pharmally's depositary bank. After all, Pharmally can be regarded as his 'dummy' under the law," it added.

The Ombudsman clarified that it is also ordering the filing of one count of graft charge against Webster Laureñana, also an official of the DBM-Procurement Services unit.

Laureñana’s name, the anti-graft body said, was omitted in the 2023 order by mere inadvertence.—AOL, GMA Integrated News

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